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Article 37 does limit the discussion at Congregational Meetings to those items presented by the council.   There would be nothing wrong, in my opinion, for opening up the floor for comment,  but no action could take place outside of the set agenda.   On the other hand, there would be nothing wrong with not allowing additional comment either.   If a congregational member had questions, they can go to the council meeting to work on those questions.   The Council, or the consistory, are deliberative bodies that seek out the will and direction of the Holy Spirit in guiding the church.  They work deliberatively, prayerfully and thoughtfully.  They publish the agenda prior to the meeting to give time for deliberative and thoughtful and prayerful decisions by the congregation. 


Many churches hold Congregational Meetings, where decisions are made, and also hold Town Hall meetings for the sake of informing the congregation about ministry.    No decisions are made at a Town Hall meeting.             

We switched from Easy Worship to Proclaim.   We liked how we could all build the service throughout the week from our home computers.   We felt that Proclaim helped out small church feel like a big church.  I believe we pay in theneighborhood of $200 a year. 

In one of the churches I served as a pastor, there was a rule that spouses could not serve on council at the same time.   When the council realized that my wife would never be allowed to serve with that policy in place,  the council made an exception for her.  She is a very gifted person and not only was she delighted to serve, but the church was well served.    She would simply abstain from voting when needed.   Another church made the rule that spouses not only could serve, but allowed a husband and wife to serve as deacons together.  They were each gifted deacons and they enjoyed the activity together.  They also enjoyed not being deacons together, rather than one of them almost always in office.   This worked out very well.  We never felt there was a voting block or abuse of power.   We trusted each other and made our points.  Sometimes they agreed and sometimes they did not.  

First I would remind elders and deacons to make sure they are meeting and greeting visitors, new members and those who are standing by themselves. That should be priority one after and before the service. I think the pastor should be free to engage deeply and pray for those who were touched during the teaching of the Word. It is good to end a message and service with an invitation to pray.  The pastor can join the prayer team up front and then, after those divine appointments are met, then the pastor can be free to join in the connecting with as many as possible. I think it is impressive and productive when the pastor is greeting people before the service.   I really like and desire prayer with the elders and or worship team before the service.  but I favor dispensing with the "council meeting" before the service. Usually it is a polite sitting around and 30 seconds before the service is to begin, someone looks at a calendar to decide whose turn it is, and then there is a short prayer. Much better, I think, if all these leaders would be out meeting, greeting and ministering to the people. 

If you want a tool that evaluates the entire church, (not just a ministry) I think Natural Church Development by Christian Swartz is a great tool.  It identifies your churches strengths compared to thousands of other churches.   I would also order his book and read it.   After reading the book, it is very easy to administer the test and interpret the results.  And it is not expensive.   The theory is that healthy things grow.  It is not a measure of church growth but rather church health. 



Thank you for your letter and leadership.   It takes courage to go down this road.   Your situation pretty well describes our church as well.  One major difference is that your leadership is taking the lead in presenting the study, rather than reacting to a set of people who were seen as "pushing for change."    However, just by bringing it up, the council will be upsetting the status quo.  I think it would be wise to think through as a council some sort of timeline that you are implementing, so that you are not forced to be reactive.   Perhaps you will give 6 months for study before you discern the next step.  And who will make that next step?  Will it be the council? The elders? Or a congregational vote?   During this time, some will say, "Let's just focus on the essentials".   It is helpful to remember that almost everything we do as Christians is non-essential to salvation, but we do them anyway.  And sometimes, these things are matters of justice or matters of cultural relevance as we minister to a new generation.  So the important thing is to give an opportunity for the congregation to see that the Scriptures can be interpreted faithfully by either position.  We are. after all a scripturally based church.   It is most helpful to hear both positions from start to finish within the context of a creation, fall, redemption, consummation framework.   Then go back and show how each side makes different interpretive choices.  For instance, it there a hierarchy already in Genesis or not?  Is the curse prescriptive or descriptive?  Is the fact that Eve is named after the curse significant?  Are OT examples of female leadership to shame males? Or is it foreshadowing?  On and on.   Clearly, this is not a small task, but blessings to you and your congregation.  I hope and pray you can navigate these waters in a way that is a model for others.   


Joe,  about a decade ago a church where I was the pastor underwent a significant restructuring.   We used a little book called "Winning on Purpose", which was based in part on John Carver's work.    First we studied our current system. We had 6-7 committees and each committee was supposed to have 6 people.   So counting the 12 on council, we counted 48 people involved in committees in a church of 120.   Also, we noted that most months most committees came in a "no report".   When I asked the council who was responsible for ministry, they all raised their hands.   When I asked them who got fired if ministry did not go well, they all pointed at me.   So after laughing about that, we decided to shake things us.  We imagined the church as a ship.   God's ship.  The council was in charge of deciding what kind of ship it would be, when and where it would sale, and spending limits.   As the pastor I would captain the ship, and I would appoint my directors.   The directors would be responsible to me to accomplish the measurable goals set out by the council.      The council would focus on the what and I would focus on the how.   So I appointed and council ratified 1) a director of hosting, responsible for welcoming, tracking and involving new comers, 2) a director of education, responsible for Sunday School K-adult 3) a director of Spiritual Disciplines, responsible for faith nurture for all members, 4) a director of worship arts, 5) a director of service/ mission in the church 6) a director of mission / service towards the world.   The directors had clear mandates and goals and budget.   They were responsible to achieve their ends however they chose.  Some worked solo.  Some gathered a team.  I maintained contact with them and gave a ministry report each month to council.  Once a year council evaluated based on the goals that were set and new goals were put forth.  Based on the goals a budget was passed.   This system worked extremely well.   Some of the results were that the church was freed from governance  to put more energy into mission and into shepherd groups and into iron sharpen's iron groups.    Please update us on how it goes at your church.  

We have assigned a group to each elder and we encouraged the elder to do home visits with any member who does not participate in the Shepherd group or in another group.   We also send a letter to all members so all members know that they can request a family visit, even if they are in a group.    

We have three types of groups.  1) Shepherd Groups:   The elders have care of the entire congregation and therefore every member falls into a shepherd group by assignment.   Members may switch groups if they prefer another group for any reason.   The shepherd group meet once a month in a member's home or at church.  It is multi-generational and sometimes large and unwieldy.   Some shepherd groups thrive and some do not, often depending on the skills of the elder's leadership.   Many groups feel like a large Thanksgiving potluck meeting in someone's house.   But with a short devotion, and a dedicated time of prayer together, many find a valuable sense of community and support in these groups.  2) Affinity Groups / Interest Groups:  These groups gather by life position or interest.  For example, Young Adults, Youth group, Sr. Bible study, Women's Fellowship,  Men's Breakfast --  all help create community and family.   3) Iron sharpens Iron:   Especially effective for discipleship are groups we call Iron Sharpens Iron groups, where a group is purposefully small and closed.   These groups go deep into discipleship, study, prayer and fellowship.   Usually 5 or less and by invitation only.  It is basically one believer saying to another, let's meet regularly to pray and study and encourage one another.  

This is an impressive piece of work.  One resource I found very helpful was 

My Jesus Loves Gays: Why Bible-Believing Christians Should Love and Accept LGBTQ People

by Robert Williams  (Author).  This book is written by a theologically conservative pastor who has effectively walked alongside LGBTQ persons.   I look forward to investigating the links you have provided.  


1st:  Put up on a big board every single position that the church has, including greeters, lawn mowers, coffee makers, ushers, teachers, students, youth group leaders and youth group, nursery, committee members, elders and deacons, etc. . . .   Some of these positions are filled for a term and are already listed, but most are volunteer positions. 

The congregation will be surprised at how many different things there are to do in the life of the church.  This helps people to see that it is not true that 20% do 80% of the work.   In fact, there are many many people that are doing their part. 

Week ONE:   The First Week of August:  This is the "Keep your hat week".   The pastor or person running the Hat's Game makes a big deal of FIRING EVERYONE.   Thank them for their service.  Talk about what a great job they did and the church could run without them.     But as of Sept. 1, they will no longer hold that position.    However, if this is their joyful place, and they want to wear that hat again for another year, they may sign up that hat.  Only people keeping a hat may sign up on week one.   

What this does:  It sends the strong message that you are not signing up for life.  And it gives you an opportunity to thank people. It also means that no one is kicked out of a position where they enjoy serving.

WEEK TWO:  The second week of August:  This is the "Week of Joy."  The announcement is made to draw attention to all those who signed up last week who are continuing in their position.  But, if there is a position that you would really like to try out!  GO for it.  This is your place of JOY!   Serve where you have passion.  Sign up where ever you want to as many times as you want to. 

WEEK THREE AND FOUR:   These are the "Guilt Weeks".  We have the board 90% filled, but the nursery is still in need, as is the hospitality ministry.   It takes all of us working together.  Everyone should have already picked up at least one hat that you feel called to.  But now is a time to pick up a hat that you do for the sake of service and because you are a part of the family. 

After the HATS game is over, the leader of each ministry or ministry division call those who have signed up and distribute job descriptions and schedules and thank them.  

This has worked for us for many many years.   

A Covenant church nearby  has had great success with confirmation class.  This is offered to students at least in 7th grade, it is a two year program, taught by the pastors and several teachers.   It is very doctrinal and ends in a special worship where each student has a written one page testimony as they join the church.  The class is taught on Wednesday nights and students are only allowed a few misses. 



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